December 2004

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After years of anticipation - and not a few second thoughts as the true complexity of the project became apparent - it is finally "show time" for the construction of the radio station at Chageen - and it will quite literally be a miracle when it all comes together. As Mark and Diane return to Chad to build the station, they share their hopes, and appeal for prayer.

Sometime during these next four months, the silence of the FM band over Chageen will be broken by a single station. FM 95.2 “The Voice of Chageen” is being born - the offspring of a vision we have had for many years: to do an end-run around the illiteracy which continues to handicap the maturity of the Kwong church.

The idea for such an end-run germinated maybe 10 years ago when Mark realized that his efforts at translation and discipleship, bound as they were to paper, were having only limited impact. People simply couldn’t read - 100% of Kwong women, and something like 70% of Kwong men didn’t know what all those little squiggles on paper meant. And teaching them what they meant was (and is) very, very difficult. Deprived of any significant intellectual stimulus since the time they are very young, adult Kwong men and women were just not wired for ABC’s any more. Radio seemed an ideal solution. About every other family owns a radio, and listening to static filled short-wave broadcasts in French or Arabic from the capital is a favorite evening past-time. A nice clean FM signal in their own language would have an appeal that other stations would not.

As we thought about it, we could see other benefits to the medium of radio. We realized it would allow us to reach (in a limited way) not only the Kwong, but also 4 other tribes - including the Muslim nomads who pass through the Kwong territory twice each year - once going north, and then again on their southbound journey. Also, it would insure that Kwong Christians in outlying villages hear the gospel as we wish they would hear it, and not as some of our otherwise well-meaning Kwong pastors express it - a dreadful mixture of legalism fed by their ever-fertile imaginations. And finally, by associating the gospel with public-affairs announcements and tasteful indigenous music, we would appeal to the unchurched part of Kwong society. Even if people are not converted outright by radio, the Gospel would move up a few notches in their consciousness and dispose them to give it a more favorable hearing when preached by more conventional means.

African bureaucracies being what they are, we despaired of ever getting permission from the government to build such a station, and for many years didn’t even try. But when we finally did try, God, in the first of several miracles, granted us a license in record time - a license which was presented to us by the government communications commission with their sincerest apologies for the speed with which they handled our request – surely a first in Africa . Back to the Bible (BttB) worked the second miracle - raising something like $20,000 to fund the radio station. The final miracle which we await from the hand of God is someone who speaks French to come for two years to train young Kwong men to run the station over the long-haul so we can go back to doing what we do best – translating the Scriptures into Kwong. (Latest – we have a serious candidate for the job.)

Actually there is a penultimate (that is, a next-to-last) miracle which we await - the building of the station itself during the coming four months. The logistics of building such a station on the back side of Africa, we have discovered, are overwhelming. 2 teams of 4 people each will come to Chad to help build the station; thousands of dollars worth of equipment will be shipped there; and considerable quantities of cement, steel, and lumber needs to be purchased in Chad - all in a timely manner. It will be a miracle if we don’t find ourselves missing some crucial piece of equipment or the cement factory doesn’t go on strike or some personality issue doesn’t blow up in our faces. A miracle indeed - which is why we are including with this edition of our newsletter a prayer guide which will enable you to pray in the most informed way possible these coming months. Please do pray. We have never attempted anything on this scale before, and are constrained to trust God in a way that too often - to our shame - we do not.


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